How it all started

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The salt flats were named after Captain Benjamin Bonneville a high-ranking soldier in the American army who decided to use his stature to scout land in the then uncharted west. He never actually visited or even saw the flats that were to bear his name; a brown-nosing Lieutenant under his command named it in his honour.

The first motorcycle to cross the flats was a Yale ridden by a headcase called David Jenkins who rode from Salt Lake City in Utah to Reno in Nevada to watch a boxing match in 1910. He rode along the newly finished railway line to avoid the soft, cloying mud that makes up some of the area. Not long later racing started on the flats. Hundreds of records have been set by among others Britons Sir Malcolm Campbell and Rollie Free.

In 1948 Rollie Free started the unlikely fashion of riding in nothing but bathing cap, swimming trunks and plimsolls, at over 150mph. Nutters who dressed like this became known as the bathing suit racers. Californian Tommy Turlock was the last of a deranged line of bathing suit racers. Tommy wearing virtually the same as Free, but with the addition of a helmet (sensible, see?) and a covering of graphite grease in a vain attempt to reduce wind resistance, fell off his Triumph Thunderbird on the wrong side of 130mph. Turlock needed major skin grafts and was never again heard to use the phrase ‘rubbing salt in the wounds’

MCN Staff

By MCN Staff